Qualified Exception for Special Needs Transportation Contracts Added to School Code’s Competitive Bidding Requirement
Last month the Governor signed P.A. 96-0392, which becomes effective on January 1, 2010. This new law carves out a qualified exception for special needs transportation contracts to the bidding requirements in the School Code. Section 10-20.21 of the School Code requires that, in general, all contracts for supplies, materials, work or transportation involving expenditures in excess of $25,000, or a lower amount as required by board policy, be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder after due advertisement. However, this requirement is subject to a list of exceptions, which now includes a sixteenth, qualified exception for special needs transportation contracts.
The new exception contains several important conditions. First, this exception does not apply to all transportation contracts. It applies only to contracts for the transportation of pupils with special needs. Second, special needs transportation contracts must still be advertised in the same manner as other contracts that are required to be let out to bid. Third, the contract must be awarded after evaluating the bids based on enumerated criteria. Those criteria include the ability to provide safety and comfort for special needs students, the ability to provide stable service, and any other factors identified in the request for proposals. After considering these factors, a school district must then evaluate the price.
School districts should not consider this to be a complete exception to the competitive bidding requirement. Other exceptions listed in Section 10-20.21 are true exceptions, in that none of the competitive bidding requirements such as advertising the request for proposals or awarding the contract to the lowest responsible bidder apply. The new exception for special needs transportation specifies factors that a school district must follow in considering contract awards.